Challenges of the music industry in Serbia

We strive to make each event better than the last

In the last few years, there has been a noticeable boom in event tourism, and today Serbia is the regional centre of music production. We spoke with the owner and founder of Skymusic, Milenko Škarić, about the challenges that the music industry in our country faces, how difficult it is to organize large-scale production events and which music genre is considered the future.

Skymusic’s portfolio includes the most prestigious music festivals in our country – Exit, Beer Fest, Music Week and Guča Trumpet Festival. Is event tourism finally blooming in our country?

For sure! The events you mentioned gather hundreds of thousands of visitors from the country and abroad each year, and they definitely contributed to the development of event tourism. This is why the Music Awards Ceremony (MAC), Belgrade Beer Fest, Belgrade Music Week and Classico were declared events of importance by the Belgrade government and this is something I am very grateful to the city authorities.

Speaking about the beginnings, Exit somehow opened the door to event tourism, from its humble beginnings in 2000, to eventually growing into one of the best and biggest European festivals visited by several million people from more than a hundred countries. Belgrade Beer Fest, which also has a long tradition, will celebrate its 20th edition this year, and this will be the second year that Skymusic is in charge of organizing and holding the festival, together with the Belgrade authorities. Last year, Belgrade Beer Fest played host to numerous domestic, regional and global stars, and had over 350,000 visitors, which is a huge success after the festival had to be drastically scaled down during the pandemic years. The number of visitors to Music Week has been growing year-on-year, and as a very young festival, which was held only four times so far, it had more than 250,000 visitors last time, both from the country and region.

Guča Trumpet Festival has the longest tradition out of all mentioned festivals, and last year, it took place for the 61st time. For the first time, Skymusic was one of the organizers and our task was to restore Guča to its former glory. I think we succeeded to a large extent in this since over 100,000 people visited the festival. This is the highest number of visitors in the last decade and a half, and I am proud to say that we have succeeded in raising Guča to the level it deserves, thanks to an excellent programme and the most advanced audio-visual production.

Photo: Live Production

The regional music award event, Music Awards Ceremony (AMC), is one of the events that you are the proudest of. You must have encountered various challenges when implementing such a large project. What makes this event unique and how difficult is it to organize a project of this scale in Serbia?

Music Awards Ceremony is an event that thanks to music, united all the republics of the former Yugoslavia and brought together the most outstanding regional performers, from different musical genres, on the same stage. MAC gathered the seemingly incompatible musicians while hosting a glamorous awards show with spectacular performances from the region’s biggest music stars. When you add to that the state-of-the-art stage and audio-visual production, you get the biggest regional music event, which rightly belongs to the group of the biggest European and world events. MAC received seven international recognitions for its first two editions – Best Ceremony, Best European Event, Excellence In Brand Strategy and Creation, Brand Communication – Brand Events, Live Show, Set Design Supplier, Audiovisual Supplier and Best Musical Event.

This year, we organized MAC for the third time which, if we considered all relevant parameters, has set new standards in the entertainment industry, not only in this part of Europe but also much wider. We really try to make each next edition better than the last, and I’m glad we’ve succeeded in this every time. This is something that both performers and audiences recognize. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the people who participated in the months-long organization of MAC, where everyone worked extremely professionally and with great responsibility, and thus made a huge contribution to this project.

Like many others, the music industry has seen its ups and downs in the past two years. How difficult is it to work in the music industry in Serbia today and how do you keep up with the changes?

The pandemic has strongly affected the music industry, and I’m not only referring to the performers, but also to the technical staff without whom it is impossible to realize even the smallest event. In less than a year, the situation has slowly restored to its previous state, but surviving during the COVID pandemic was a big challenge. That’s why, during the pandemic, Skymusic focused on video production, television shows and recording videos, films and series. Also, we recently launched our cable TV channel called Skymusic Entertainment (SE), the Sky Academy educational platform and the most innovative ticketing service –

Every music genre has its own future, with smaller or bigger adjustments to market trends

It is noticeable that big global showbiz stars have been bypassing Belgrade lately. What is the reason for this? Are they production restrictions in place, is the lower living standard of people in Serbia to blame or is it something else?

Trying to organize a concert for a global music star is an extremely expensive undertaking and often unprofitable since it often turns out to be impossible to cover all the costs of the organization. This brings the issue of ticket prices to the forefront, which, in the case of global stars, would be too high in relation to the purchasing power of our citizens. Also, world-famous performers prefer to choose other concert destinations in the region, such as Zagreb and Budapest, that is, they usually presume that having a concert in Belgrade would mean a half-empty venue, and hence would not generate them the income that they would certainly manage to earn in another town in one of the neighbouring countries.

Photo: Live Production

Which music genre is the future? What will music be like in 20 years?

I think that every music genre has its own future, with smaller or bigger adjustments to market trends. In recent years, we have seen the expansion of new musical trends in Serbia, and I am primarily referring to trap and drill. However, this does not mean that pop and rock are extinct. The same trends are in the rest of the world. We are witnessing the hyperproduction of all types of content, including music, while platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and even Tik-Tok play a crucial role in this today, as they facilitate that content reaches a large number of users in a very short time interval. I believe that this trend will continue in the future and that the way of distribution and consumption will determine its future. I certainly expect that the greatest progress will occur in the field of multimedia interpretation.

Music Awards Ceremony is an event that proved that music really has no limits

Last year’s competition Pesma za Evroviziju aroused great public interest. There was talk about the songs and performances, but special attention was also paid to the stage, the creativity of the performances, production and technical standards. Skymusic was one of the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation’s partners in organizing this event. Will it be the same this year and how do you see our country’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest?

During its almost 30 years of operations, and thanks to numerous projects, Skymusic has validated its regional leadership position in organizing and technically producing large-scale events in this part of Europe. We devote equal attention to every project and this is the reason why we are recognized as a reliable partner and the first choice for organizing the most diverse types of events. Skymusic has had long-term and fruitful cooperation with the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation (RTS), so organising the competition for Serbian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest was in some way expected. This does not mean that the project was easy to implement, on the contrary. Production had to be adapted to the performance of each contestant and meet very high technical standards. It makes me proud to say that we have successfully responded to each task. Skymusic has also contributed to the modernization of the competition Pesma za Evroviziju, which not only reflected on the competition’s technical segment, but also on the musicians that were competing and the performed songs. We are very glad that our company was part of the revival of this prestigious event, and we are honoured to be at the same place again this year, with the mission to raise the level in terms of organizing, technically producing and implementing the competition for the Serbian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Regarding our country’s participation in the contest, I believe that we have top-quality performers and that our candidate will be noticed, regardless of who will be chosen to represent us.

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